ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Books & Novels

Frankenstein and the Railroad

Updated on March 30, 2012

There are so many things about the analogy of the railroad and Frankenstein that, as an English teacher, I applaud the first person to make the connection (although I don't know who that may have been). The novel by Mary Shelley is chock-full of themes that are analogous to the concept of the railroad reaching across the continent. For instance:

1. Dr. Frankenstein is heralded as the Prometheus of modern literature. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man and was punished for it because of the havoc man created with it. Dr. Frankenstein also created something (the monster) by stealing human body parts and unleashing it on the world, and he, too, was punished for it. In the same way, the constructors of the railroad system, especially the "Big Four," created something tremendous and powerful and handed it over to the people of America, but many were punished in the process: the Chinese workers, the Indians, the ending of the mail system as it was known, the wage-workers during the depression of the 1870's, the morals of the UP camps (demoralization, if you will), etc. The railroads were fascinating and technologically advanced (just like fire or the Frankenstein monster), but they brought just as much bad as good.

2. Another theme of Frankenstein is the inhumane treatment of outsiders. Frankenstein's monster was treated horribly by the people of the countryside, and even by his own creator. In the same way, the Chinese workers, without whom the railroad would not have spanned all the way across the continent, were tortured and killed, excommunicated, and banned from immigration. "Mobs attacked Chinatown" in the same way that mobs attacked Frankenstein's monster. In the same way, more Indians were mistreated during the building of the railroads, even though their only wish was to be left alone, just like Frankenstein's monster wanted to be left alone.

Source

3. A respect and awe of science and technology is prominent in the novel, also, manifested in the creation of the monster. Along the same vein, "the railroad was the key instrument in transforming the area from pre-industrial forms of economic activity to modern industrial technology." The coming-alive of the monster and the coming-alive of transportation of goods and people across the U.S. are definitely analogous to each other.

4. In Frankenstein, Victor states, ""Learn from me...how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow." Little did the railroad builders know, danger would be prominent in the building of this transcontinental navigation. Faulty construction because of the race-to-build-it-faster, an economic depression that would blossom into riots caused by the lessening of wages, thousands of minorities beaten or killed, danger in the building of the railroad itself (especially with the use of explosives), and even robbery by the infamous James brothers...all of these dangers are akin to the Frankenstein theme of "ignorance is bliss."

5. In Frankenstein's world, as in the world of the railroads, wealth and prosperity are lauded above hard work and stamina. The fraudulent ways that the railroads were funded and the controversy that surrounded the planning out and economic areas of the construction are just minor examples. The companies that prospered and the working men that were exploited are even more mind-blowing.

6. Lastly, although he was a monster, Frankenstein had a keen sense of humanity and understood much with sympathy. He was a monster with a heart of gold. In a similar sense, although the railroads had "monster, not monument" traits, they were essentially the heart of the west. "The late nineteenth century West was inconceivable without the railroad." The railroads were "the achievement of the age." They connected the East Coast to the West Coast, thus connecting the world all the way around, in a way.

Just as Frankenstein's monster was both to be feared and respected, so is the story of the railroad and what it brought to the United States.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)